Kentucky Fried Hard Work

In his autobiography Harland Sanders tried to sound like a dumb country boy, but he can’t disguise how smart a businessman he was for most of his adult life.  According to information I found on several websites, Colonel Sanders operated a ferry boat across the Ohio River as 1 of his early jobs.  Apparently, 1 mistaken source spawned this erroneous information.  I can find no actual evidence he ever operated this ferry boat.  Instead, he founded the company that built and ran this ferry boat from 1912 until 1942 when a bridge was built in the vicinity and put the ferry out of business.  That is much more impressive than just “operating” a ferry boat.  This was an amazing accomplishment, considering Colonel Sanders dropped out of school during the 7th grade because he hated algebra.  He admired Clarence Darrow–the famous lawyer who defended the teacher in the Scopes monkey trial–so he took a correspondence course in law.  Sanders never passed the BAR exam and may have never even taken the test, but he practiced law in his spare time, while working for the railroad.  He learned enough from the coarse to understand how to set up the ferry boat business.  There already was a ferry service in the area, but it was unreliable and in such poor condition it couldn’t be used for part of the year.  Local people never chose to establish a new ferry because it was mistakenly thought to be a grandfathered-in monopoly.  But Colonel Sanders carefully studied the local laws and determined this wasn’t true.  He established the company, sold stock to investors who purchased the boat, and took a fee of $22,000 (the equivalent of over $300,000 today).  He was still in his early 20s.

Image result for Harland Sanders

Photo of a middle-aged Harland Sanders with his children and grandchildren before he founded KFC.  He worked hard from the age of 10 until he died at the age of 90.

After reading about this incident I thought I might entitle this article “Kentucky Fried Smarts,” but then I read his entire autobiography and realized hard work was more important for Colonel Sanders’ success than smarts.  Colonel Sanders began work at the age of 10 when he cleared an acre for a farmer.  The farmer was not satisfied and fired him, and Sanders’ mother admonished him for his failure.  Her husband died when Harland was 5, and she was desperately poor, working in a cannery while sharecropping.  But she instilled a tough work ethic in Harland, and the next summer, he got another job working for a farmer and was proud he could keep up with the adults.  His mother remarried, and Harland left home at the age of 12 because his step-father was abusive.  He worked as a farm laborer and as a street car ticket clerk before a short stint in the U.S. Army.  He took care of army  mules in occupied Cuba (the army stayed there after the Spanish-American war to prop up a puppet dictator).  The army honorably discharged him, probably because they discovered he was underage.  Sanders worked for the railroads, sold insurance, and then took a job selling tires.  This last job led to his eventual fame.

The Michelin tire company closed their American factory and Harland had 1 last allotment of tires to sell.  He was forced to hitchhike after his last sale because a few days earlier a bridge collapsed under him, wrecking both family cars (he was towing his son’s car).  An oil company businessman picked him up and offered him a gas station to manage.  Harland took the job and worked harder than his competitors–opening up at 5 am (2 hours earlier than anyone else) and staying up until 9 pm fixing flat tires.  The depression and a drought that devastated local farmers killed this business, but he soon opened up another gas station and added a small restaurant for travelers.  This business expanded to include a larger restaurant and an hotel.  However, years later, a new highway was built bypassing this location, and at the age of 65 Harland knew this was the end.  He sold the business and decided to franchise the fried chicken recipe he’d perfected over the years.  Within 9 years there were hundreds of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, and a big corporation bought the business, though they continued to use Colonel Sanders as a spokesman until his death in 1980.

The best way to cook fried chicken is in an iron skillet, but Colonel Sanders realized this took too long.  Most customers didn’t want to wait for 40 minutes. If too much chicken was made in advance, it was wasted and he lost money.  He could fry them in deep fryers, but the chicken took on the flavor of onion rings or shrimp or whatever else had been in the fryer.  So Colonel Sanders developed a method of frying the chicken in a pressure cooker.  The chicken would cook rapidly, and there was no waste.

After Colonel Sanders sold his business he wasn’t happy with the way the big corporations cut corners.  They no longer made a cream gravy to go with the chicken, and there is not 11 herbs and spices in the breading any more.  An independent analysis found just flour, salt, black pepper, and monosodium glutamate.  The Chicago Tribune claims they may have found the original recipe.  The 11 herbs and spices may include salt, celery salt, garlic salt, black pepper, white pepper, paprika, mustard, oregano, basil, thyme, and ginger.  I have duplicated the modern day KFC in my home kitchen, but I have yet to try it with the original 11 herbs and spices.


Sanders, Harland

Life as I have known it has been finger lickin’ good

Creation House 1974


2 Responses to “Kentucky Fried Hard Work”

  1. ina puustinen-westerholm Says:

    Instead of students..singing patrotic songs, or pledging allegiance..each morning..they need to hear, and to read..stories about..what ‘innovation’..can do for the human family. Thank you for the uplifting ‘read’..for this week.

  2. w Says:

    FYI Video on how to farm commercially with nature not force. It has good info.

    “Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures near Bluffton, Clay County, Georgia, tells of his evolution from industrial farmer to regenerative feeder and keeper of the soil.

    Mr. Harris may be the smartest, most courageous, and most civic-minded real world environmentalist ever hatched.

    He did not come from a place of theory and backyard gardening, but from generations of conservative cattle management. He went from profit to debt, diversified his production, made hundreds of jobs, and strengthened his soil. And by doing that, he has made more than a profit; he has helped his community and guaranteed his place in American agriculture going forward. Full applause!

    This is a terrific video; thanks to Johanna Greenberg for sending it to me as it well and truly made my day.”

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